This post marks the sixth installment of the Budget Bourbon Battle Royale. (Follow this link for previous rounds.) If you’re not familiar with this series, we’re reviewing bottles that can be had for $20 or less in most areas. Thus far, Old Fitzgerald has fended off several challengers and remains our reigning king of the budget ring. This time, the challenger is Ancient Age. Will this be the end of the Old Fitz reign, and the start of a new (ancient) age? Read on.
Round 6: Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond vs. Ancient Age (80 Proof)
To paraphrase the great Michael Buffer:
For the thousands on twitter and the millions of readers around the world, ladies and gentlemen, LLLET’S GET READY TO RUUUUMMMBBBLLLLLLLLEEEE!
The Challenger: Ancient Age 80
Ancient Age is a Buffalo Trace-produced product distilled in Frankfort, KY. The label itself has been in production since 1946, and clocks in at 80 proof. It is made using Buffalo Trace’s Mash Bill #2, the higher rye recipe, which it shares with Blanton’s, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock’s Reserve, and Elmer T. Lee, all top-shelf bourbons in their own regard. So that makes this the most affordable label of the mash bill by a considerable margin. Is it the same bourbon? Nope. But for under $13 for 750mL, it doesn’t need to be.
- Appearance: Very Pale.
- Nose: Lots of corn, some light vanilla, rye, and pepper.
- Taste: Again, the corn and vanilla are the main players here, but there is a slight rye spice at the end. It’s somewhat thin, without a great depth of flavor, but definitely fits the Buffalo Trace profile.
- Finish: Very dry, very short. The only lingering flavor is the mild rye citrus and black pepper as it quickly fades.
- Score: 75/100.
The Reigning King of the Ring: Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond (recap from previous rounds)
Old Fitzgerald is another venerable bourbon label. It is currently produced by Heaven Hill at the new Bernheim facility in Louisville. It’s a Wheated Bourbon, and shares its mash with Larceny and Old Fitzgerald 12 year. It can be found in 90 proof, or Bottled-in-Bond at 100 Proof. This review covers the Bottled-in-Bond version.
- Appearance: Deep gold.
- Nose: Bakery goods (wedding cake) and corn sweetness.
- Taste: Wheat tingle on the tip of the tongue, more white cake, mint, wheat, and maple syrup on the back with cinnamon showing its head on the end.
- Finish: Medium finish with the sweetness and wheat tingle remaining through the end.
- Score: 83/100. Recommended.
Really, Ancient Age is not a bad bourbon. It just isn’t very exciting. At its price point, it doesn’t really need to be. It’s straightforward Buffalo Trace on the nose and palate, without much burn and with very little lingering flavor. That being stated, it is not the best budget bourbon in its price range or in its category, as it falls well short of the recently reviewed Evan Williams Black Label, to name one. Therefore, Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond retains its spot atop the Battle Royale Standings for another round.
Budget Bourbon Battle Royale Current Standings:
- Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 83
- Very Old Barton Bottled-in-Bond 83
- Evan Williams (Black Label) 82
- Old Grand Dad Bottled-in-Bond 76
- Ancient Age 80 75
- Old Crow 72
- Old Taylor 69
The ModernThirst.com scoring system is a standard 100 point system based on 4 categories, taken in order.
- Appearance: 15 points
- Nose: 25 Points
- Palate/Taste: 35 Points
- Finish: 25 points
- 95+ Epic
- 90-94 Excellent, Good representative of its style
- 85-89 Solid sipper
- 80-84 Drinkable, but potentially flawed.
- 75-79 Low quality, flawed, use as a mixer only
- <75 Rot Gut, avoid